Whitehead Lecture

Research in the Age of Numerical Simulation

Steven A. Boggs

Abstract – Engineering education has become dominated by numerical simulation, the results of which, as for experimental data, are “anecdotal” in the sense that the result is specific to a set of conditions with no basis for extrapolation to other sets of conditions. Physically based “theory”, even if approximate, results in a mathe­matical formula which codifies some degree of understanding of the underlying phenomena that generate the experimental data or numerical simulation results and provides a basis for mapping various parameters of interest in multidimen­sional space. If we define “research” as the process of converting “information” (i.e., data) to “knowledge” (i.e., understanding), the results of experiment and numerical simulation become the “raw material” of research, but “research” is the act of converting such data to “theory”. In this context, various mathematical approaches to the solution of problems in the field of dielectrics and nonlinear materials are demonstrated.



Steven Boggs (F ’93) was graduated with a B.A. in physics from Reed College and received his Ph.D. (physics) and MBA degrees from the University of Toronto in 1972 and 1987, respectively. He spent 12 years with the Research Division of Ontario Hydro and 6 years as Director of Engineering and Research for Underground Systems, Inc. After 20 years at the University of Connecticut, Steve recently retired from his position as Director of the Electrical Insulation Research Center and Research Professor of Materials Science, Physics, and Electrical Engineering, although he is still working on a number of projects at the University. Until recently, he was also an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto and Advisory Professor at Southwest Jiaotong University in China. He has published widely in the areas of partial discharge detection, high frequency phenomena in power apparatus, high field phenomena in solid dielectrics, nonlinear materials, capacitor technology, and SF6 insulated systems. He was elected a Fellow of the IEEE for his contributions to the field of SF6 insulated systems and received the 2010 IEEE Thomas W. Dakin “Distinguished Technical Contributions” award. Presently, Steve spends most of his time doing computational and theoretical research, electronic instrumentation design, and experimental design for a range of companies in the US and Asia through his company, Nonlinear Systems, Inc.